Craig Dawson won a magnificent header, tore into a 50-50 challenge, and stretched every sinew in his body to drive past one more Lyon defender for good measure as the game entered eight minutes of added time. It summed up West Ham’s tenacity in the second half, and once David Moyes‘ rage over Felix Zwayer’s officiating has subsided, he’ll reflect on his team’s efforts and conclude that their European dream is far from gone.
There was no reason to be pessimistic, considering the possibility of West Ham collapsing when Aaron Cresswell was controversially sent out for a foul on Moussa Dembélé just before half-time. Lyon was the one who had the most regrets. They generated little against ten men, and West Ham took advantage of their sense of unfairness, taking the lead through Jarrod Bowen and fighting back when Tanguy Ndombele equalised with 24 minutes remaining.
“There’s a lot to play for,” Moyes remarked, refusing to comment on Zwayer’s expulsion of Cresswell. The West Ham manager was more concerned in discussing how his team kept Lyon at bay. “We did a fantastic job defending,” Moyes stated. “You must be able to both protect and strike.”
Finally, it demonstrated the spirit of unity that Moyes has instilled at the London Stadium. It will help West Ham when the Europa League quarter-finals continue next week at Stade de Gerland. They aren’t known for turning over lightly and have demonstrated that they can cause Lyon’s defence problems.
“We have the ability to score,” Moyes stated, and he’ll be hoping for more from his assault. West Ham were a little too wild in possession at times, and it’s a worry that Michail Antonio will rue his failure to convert a good chance just before Ndombele’s goal.
Despite finishing ninth in Ligue 1, Lyon was a semi-finalist in the Champions League two years ago and is capable of punishing any squandering. They are a seasoned squad that settled in quicker than West Ham, who were playing in their first European quarter-final since 1981. For extended periods, Ndombele and Thiago Mendes kept the ball away from Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek, and Lyon came close to taking the lead when Dembélé turned Lucas Paquetá’s cross wide.
West Ham’s best chances came at the break. When Dawson released Said Benrahma, who was denied by Anthony Lopes, they threatened, and they threatened again when Antonio’s shot was blocked by Castello Lukeba.
The game grew more evasive. After Cresswell’s foul on Dembélé was deemed to have denied a clear goalscoring opportunity, it appeared unlikely that Moyes would be waiting on the touchline at halftime to chastise the officials.
It is questionable from Zwayer, who had waved away Bowen’s appeals for a free-kick moments before Houssem Aouar sent Dembele racing beyond Kurt Zouma. Dembele even winked at his teammates after Cresswell was ordered off. The striker’s touch had taken him away from goal, while Zouma was covering, and it felt ludicrous that there was no intervention from VAR.
Moyes was arrested for his demonstrations after the decision was upheld. He was in a belligerent mood at the time. Later, he chastised a fan for running onto the pitch during the second half, effectively stopping a promising West Ham attack and raising the possibility of a Uefa probe. “I was perplexed,” Moyes admitted. “Those things aren’t beneficial to the squad.”
West Ham deserved a better performance. Moyes had bolstered his defence at halftime, with Benrahma being replaced by Ben Johnson, but he had an aggressive strategy in mind. Lyon were exposed on the break, and they fell behind when Malo Gusto couldn’t stop Pablo Fornals‘ run. Fornals pushed the ball to Jérôme Boateng, who passed it to Bowen, whose sloppy shot struck the Lyon defender and rebounded over Lopes.
The crowd erupted when the ball went in, and West Ham went on the hunt for a second, with Antonio coming close. It was a watershed moment. Lyon’s danger intensified as Peter Bosz changed his lineup, putting on Tetê and Karl Toko Ekambi. Tetê dribbled by Johnson and drilled in a ball that Alphonse Areola and Ryan Fredericks failed to clear, allowing Ndombele to score. West Ham had finally succumbed to the pressure. They still had hope by the time they went full-time.